Posted: Wednesday 6 November 2013
by Richard Jones
I’m late, I know, jumping on the badger bandwagon. This is partly because I have never actually seen a badger in my garden. Any garden, even. In fact I have only ever seen live badgers twice in my life.
I’m late, I know, jumping on the badger bandwagon. This is partly because I have never actually seen a badger in my garden. Any garden, even. In fact I have only ever seen live badgers twice in my life. I say ‘seen’, what I mean is ‘glimpsed’, because all I saw was a few seconds of galloping grey rump, caught in the headlights of the car, as we drove down a narrow country road late at night. So dim and distant are these memories, that I can’t for the life of me remember even which county they might have been in. I’ve seen plenty of dead badgers though. Again, these are glimpsed at the side of the highway, and usually on major roads, rather than country lanes.
When I was at school I remember hearing about a girl who lived on the edge of the South Downs and every night she’d watch badgers, sometimes a whole family of them, frolicking about on the lawn. I’m guessing food was left out for them, and an outside light left on to illuminate the scene. I was vaguely intrigued, but she was just a friend of a friend of a friend, and I never got an invite to tea there.
The closest I ever got to badgers in the garden was staying at the bizarre and sublimely remote Landmark Trust property at Purton Green, in Suffolk. With no road here, one has to get to the house by loading bags (and children) into a wheelbarrow and trundling them half a mile up the side of a ploughed field. There is no ‘garden’ as such, but right outside the door is a thicket of crab apple and elder, and meandering through this were the tell-tale trails of brock comings and goings.
The narrow well-trodden paths, sometimes diving low under a fallen branch (foxes would jump over), were punctuated every so often by a light tuft of the distinctive silvertip shaving brush hair caught on a bramble thorn or against a bit of rough bark. There were plenty of night-time scurryings about the ancient buildings as bats, rats and squirrels moved about, but we never saw a badger.
Despite the present antagonism between conservationists and cattle farmers, the real enemy of badgers must still be the motor car, as exemplified by my frequent road-kill observations. There have been no badgers in my part of South-East London since the last one died in Sydenham Hill and Dulwich Woods in the 1990s. Daniel Greenwood, London Wildlife Trust’s warden at the wood, has written eloquently about this final sett, and wonders whether badgers could ever return to the area. An attempted reintroduction of badgers simply resulted in their straying and being run over, one as far away as the Old Kent Road.
I will keep looking, but I don’t hold up much hope. It seems that despite the relatively large gardens of this part of the capital, there are still too many houses, too many roads and too many cars to let the badgers back in.
06/11/2013 at 11:33
Like you Richard i have only seen road kill Badgers,the nearest one to my house in Ewell was on the Banstead Road where there is open ground both sides of the road,The old inner London playing fields one side at priests hill and farm land the other,i was told that Badgers had been seen in gardens there for years, Oldchippy.